Not-poetry

Today, I’m not gonna write poetry. I don’t want to write poetry. I want to write prose but I can’t not label it NaPoWriMo because I want to keep up a streak.

So instead, today I will write prose and let it be marked low because in one paradigm prose can just be terrible poetry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s two minutes past ten, here we go ago again.

The gnawing is back. Today I have three packets of soup and four packets of mac n cheese left. I tell myself I skip lunch because I cant afford it – well, I can, but the problem is I can’t stop eating until I feel nothing but food fill me till my throat and really, I don’t have money for that everyday.

Problem is, the pre-bought food is running out but this this thing, this gnawing lasts.

I need to do something when I’m anxious. Till now, everything I’ve done is bad. Procrastinate, binge or cut.

Everyone who knows has said the last is the worst, so today I decided not to want it. And I didn’t – till now.

So if I don’t cut then I have binging and procrastinating left. I try binging but then I remember I spent 70 bucks yesterday and the day before so I really can’t afford a third consecutive day of splurging. I make one packet of hot chocolate from the stash and officially start Procrastinatingtm by watching a second episode of Greys, halfway into which I realise I’m done with the drink and the feeling still hasn’t gone.

I feel like I’m crazy and I can’t help but cry because this shit isn’t going and what if it fucking never ends.

So I text the one friend who still hasn’t told me they’ve had enough of me and I tell her I’m crying because the urge to cut is driving me insane, and through the mess I see her text, saying she wants to call me and talk to me to get my mind off of it but fuck her I don’t want that, I only want to cut and so I do –

Oh.

I lied and told her I was going for a walk but instead I just cut.

 

 

This isn’t failure because I don’t think I want to get any better.

Maybe this is why I have no friends.

Thing is, its made me feel so much better, and if something can help to such an extent then why the fuck do people not want for me to do it?

What about it is really so bad?

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Glut

At half-past midnight

two packets of chips is what it takes to make the anxiety go.

It tastes like sand in my mouth and the gravel rubbing against my sweaty my toes on the stone floor.

Slowly the heat of the summer builds and I realise it did not help.

I gulp down water and then some more until there is a swirling pool of oil and corn in me.

 

I want to puke.

 

But at least the gnawing in my head is soft.

Orange Chips

Theres something cracked under the skin, and I feel it when my left cheek moves.

I must have bruised it when i fell, but I shove my face up against the long common mirror for the second-floor girls, and look for some clot or graze, but on sandpaper skin that I have not washed in three days, I find nothing.

My project- partner asks if I’m okay.

“No,” she says when I laugh and grin till my cheeks hurt my eyes, but I insist, “everything is chill bro. its cool now ya.”

She asks me to come to her if I need to talk about anything –
like when i cried and cried till i couldnt breathe after she had yelled at me, as i walked from the acad to the exam department to the hostel and till my room and on my bed and fuck i either had to breathe or cry but my body just couldnt choose-

 

but im okay now.
i wasn’t five days ago when i fell, but she wasn’t there and no one told her so i can get away with it this once
she leaves and i finally into my room, thank god
my cheeks hurt too much from giggling over nothing

uthpala asks if my thighs are alright
i ask her not to talk about it
then she asks if she can see my arm
its absurd
but she asks and thats more than i can ask for-

when you dont anymore
and i dont anymore
and we both have stopped

 

i didnt miss you after you left

I didnt miss you till now

We always fought about you leaving, then my leaving and made-up again. This time, we decided it was better if we didnt.

So all I have left of you is the years of emails and texts,
with your poetry buried beneath,
and our real selves under that too.

 

I didnt miss you until now, and I wont miss you again for some time,
so for this duration that I do – I’ll let myself cry.

Commit

As I write this there’s a thumping in my head.

It’s a panting from running as fast as I can to the second floor apartment, drowning out the reproach from a woman who opens the door before me, saying that I run, I run, an escapist.

I see her thick black hair part on her shoulder and the ring around the plane of her sharp nose while she shouts at me words of prophecy, that I shirk competition and responsibility, and so I will always fail, I will always fail, I will fail.

The kajal around her shaped eyes is too loud, so loud I can hear it still, telling me softly that this will not work – I will only take the easy way out and hide.

As I write this I hear the thumping and wonder if eight years later I am still running.

I hear the doors open and all the women who’ve told me so – I wonder if I have become one of them. As a girl, these are the only women I’ve ever known.

 

Today I’ll commit.

If nothing else happens, I can run at the end of it.

Silly Love Songs

Tonight I write about a real boy.

My, I hear you say, How Scandalous.

 

 

You came with new music, so I listened to you.

You’ve ruined the Blues for me. Now everytime I want to hear a guitar I grow sick to think of the few hours we spent in the padded room tucked away in the senior boys hostel, with you and three senior guys on guitars, one on the drums, all high as fuck- and then there was me.

Your electric sang, and so did I. For the first time, my voice felt real, like it was at home, because I can’t sing pop – my throat can only cry.

I catch myself listening to a song and I remember it was the last song the F16s played at the end of the second day of the music festival, you lead me into the crowd with your palm at the square of my back, lightly leading me on,  and you had one arm around my shoulder, my arm was around your waist and we shared a beer with alternate sips. When the beer was done you left only to come back with another girl fifteen minutes later so I look at you with squinted eyes until you see them and turn around.

 

here we are nearly a month later, and with our arms around each others waists, carrying each other to the bus where us first years pile on, your head buried sideways in my shoulder. its too dark to see where we’re going but the fifth year incharge of transport collects us along with other drunk 18 year olds and we sit ourselves down two adjoining seats. you’ve got your head sticking out of the window, puking in bursts. i try and open the second window pane, but my hands are shaking. I’m too tired myself from puking continuously through the night.

S is sitting on my lap and the three of us listen to the music you play on my phone, our heads smashed into another. i don’t like you – i like your vibe, you see.

just the other day I was explaining to S on the steps next to the stage on the field that I like you – I like your style and the way your hand moves when you play the guitar and how you looked up with your eyes closed and played and played and played.

When we got back to campus you told us to meet you at the field and so we did. S and I saw you hobble in your jumper and we sat listening to music till I was almost faint from my stomach hurting and so at the sound of the mu’addhin calling at 5:30, leaving you and S as you were, snuggled into each others arms in the fucking cold.

You see, she clung onto you and you onto her, but you talked to me.

That’s all I ever wanted and that’s what I got.

Later on another set of stairs, the one in the girls’ hostel, S tells me – you tried to kiss her but she pushed you away. She felt she had to tell me, because I had told her I liked you, but I couldn’t feel happier – that you liked her.

I got her to believe me, that I didn’t care – in the end I value my fast friendship with her more than I any small possible romance I would have had with you and very honestly, I didn’t have to lie.

I don’t like you – I just like your vibe.

Next year, when you play on the stage I will be there, singing with you and that’s all I could ever want. You might not even be there – you’re missing too many classes this trimester for you to make it to the next.

 

It’s hard – I haven’t been able to work in days because my head sees no point, and while S was sat there cuddled into your left side and I was much farther away on your right, you had turned to me and said “we’re artists – what the fuck are we doing here?”

 

You look up and point at the orange sky and the shimmering stars and say this is all you need.

 

I value riches, I’m not as brave as you are, to give up on materialism for the only drug you need. You had pulled out a small white paper wrapping of soaked weed and another of dry cigarettes. You’re addicted – I sat there inhaling the wisps that came from your burning intoxicants.

when i see you the next night you tell me that you two stayed till dawn – i say i hated to but i hat to go before I full-on passed out from the pain in my head – and you laugh and say that before we had arrived at the field you were half asleep on the bed yourself, but you came because music, you know-I’d do anything for it.

 

I can escape in you and forget you as and when I need to – I’m glad you feel for S because I would just make you hate me.

I love law school more – my books more, my marks more, my academic competition more, my elitism more, my public facade more, my debate groups more, the respect I get when fifth-years-say-my-project-can-very-well-be-published-in-a-proper-legal-journal more.

Oh well.

All we have left is words #rehash

At half past midnight, the veena sounds.

I try and tune the radio, but we are too far south to hear anything but white noise. I heave and pant and soon enough I’m crying, because the last time I heard those strings it was in the car on the way back home, dusk falling over New Town and the chants from the temple drowning any thoughts I could have. The dusty orange of Aruna Maam’s home and the pungent smell of her filter coffee are ghosts in the hostel rooms of bare white walls.

Do you remember the sky that night?

It was painted a dusty maroon and yellow at the horizon, and the eucalyptus trees were silhouetted inky black like in the Mughal miniatures on your room’s walls. I never believed that an evening could be so surreal, forever born and trapped in paintings from five hundred years ago. Then again, I never believed in many things being real, like the pain in your throat you kept complaining about. You should have seen it, the way the lake shimmered saffron and blue in the dying moments of the day and how the mosque’s lights lit up next to it. The drums from a temple behind the building broke the stillness of the night. There were no winds and no clouds in the sky, except for the gradients of grey rising from above the trees. The crescent moon was perfectly aligned with Venus, gleaming white together in a water-washed background.

Only then did I accept it was all real, because such a sight would have had to have been real to be painted so exquisitely. It was pathetically real, the way you were being swallowed into the depths of your own hell. Suddenly, words written in text messages every evening were hard to read, not without my stomach curling at the thought of yours eating away at the rest of you. It takes so much not to scream and want to shake you back into normalcy because its killing you and I cannot do anything but watch.
I can’t watch.
I was in the car on my way back, listening to the first programme on the government classical music station – a Tyagarajada-kruti again. The town centre was bustling below the many textile stores, sarees draped over mannequins caged in glass, sarees which would look sublime on you regardless of whether you can feel your hip bones or your 53 kgs, but I know its not about your weight or frame, its about something else, something more putrid and like ash. It is something I can’t fix as easily as I turn away from the shops’ blinking lights and clothes of silk.

You are one of the watercolour wonders of the world and more precious than the dusk today. Sometime last December we realised that wanting to die so young was not okay. Maybe this December we’ll believe it.

I heave and cry because only now when the veena sounds do I see that I am made of memories from current-homes and once-homes where my parents argued about how the door got jammed, and how my mother couldn’t lock it. It ended as all arguments end – that one of us wasn’t trying hard enough.

My voice is always loud and nasal, like background noise as people’es eyes roam to more important things, but it is not loud enough when they ask for me to say it again. I can’t see anything through this mask in which my face grows hot and my head pounds, the sound of my breathing and gasping roaring loud against cardboard.

(They said that this place would make me more, instead, I find that I am nothing at all.)

Tonight there are no red lines on my arms. It is too dark for it to seem right, but you tell me to wait till when the light comes in the morning.

It rains a little later.

They tell me not to lose myself, to hold on to what makes me, me. They speak as though I ever was anything at all.

But they don’t know, so I let them make the mistake.

Suddenly, we are all not trying hard enough when it becomes only about the best.

7 is when I don’t feel. 8 is when I feel too much.

My hair is falling. Pulling the strands and coiling them around my finger in the shower, I think that if I wash my hair long enough this afternoon I won’t have any left.

In the rain hitting the earth I couldn’t hear the voice in my head change to the voice screaming – Sanjana is going to Berkley and a ghost of her sits here – here open this flap behind my ear and you will find it.

Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set. Yet, today I write the last end-term paper for Torts-I and head north before I can feel like I have. I tell myself that this is the end of term, that people do go home after law school – there – your seniors are in the next car.

It feels too much like running away again.

The city was to treat us the way it had two years ago- with China rose hanging over ladies in the street with jasmine in their hair. The white Indica taxis were supposed to be familiar, but the car smells of something between coffee and cigarettes. So then, I think my memory is failing because the city is the calcium in our bones now and the life throbbing in it is bitter behind the teeth. With the sick cold of pretty mornings, they seem to be all the city is anymore.

It is still raining when I pull into our old neighbourhood. Bangalore has changed as we have. The airport is too far away from law school, so I stop over at your place for the night. None of the old suspects can be found on the streets. You’re driving down for the long weekend tomorrow but really, between morning flights and traffic jams at Mekhri circle, the city doesn’t leave us with much left.

There’s something about here that feels dead now. I almost laugh when I name it ‘adulthood’.

At times in the mirror I stumble across short, stocky eyelashes projecting from a rim and a soft white ball with brown and black circles in it.
Near it I find a round lump with two smaller casings moulded on either side, and below it soft, thick flaps-
ah.
This must be the face.
I pull on the lower lid of the eye and see red underneath.

It’s been seven years and that little tint of disgust on your mother’s face hasn’t gone.
Just like that I’m twelve again and the sun is beating down on my face while we wait for you in the bus yard.

Maybe its me who smells.

Your house is white and green, decorated like an IKEA catalogue left open.

So I think- ah, this is where you come from.

You have always walked with stars girdled around your waist and eternity crowning your temples, and from my seat in the third row I have only ever clapped you in and clapped you out again. The ink I was meant to scribble down the astronomical equations of my future with slips through my fingers and leaves a trail on the runway behind the clicking of your heels.

The masked glass is splattered with the stardust of the first monsoon showers. The sculptor’s urban hut of blue plastic and brick on the highway is close to collapsing, straw and jute left unmoved at the feet of a clay woman, hands raised in position.
“Food?”
“Raagi dosa, you want?”
“S’okay.”

Your mother hands me a plate of toast and a cup of tea. Looking at the trunk of the almond tree outside your window, she says,” the barbed wire really takes the charm away.”

I lived two storeys above your ground floor flat, and when the robbers came one night in the summer we went up to my balcony to see their footprints on the ledge above your window. Now, the vines of the money plant crawl over the new paint and into your neighbours’ house, neighbours who know nothing of when the white paint was still the first coat on these buildings and when the fences didn’t have barbed wire over them.

I’ve told your mother she doesn’t have to worry herself with tea, that I had lunch at college, but she insists I eat. As always, she has her way.

Sometimes I wonder how far two floors could be, when every two years we throw out our things and fold memories and sobs caught in our throats into cardboard boxes.

Its the small things, like how the floor to ceiling nets don’t fringe and stick out of their frames and how the books run in series along the walls of your house.

There’s a peace in the silence here, and I wonder how many times in that silence you would have heard the shouting from two floors above.

When it rains your mother makes tea and sits me down on the white canvas chair, and hopes I enjoy it.

I’ve never enjoyed the rain before, but I’m willing to try.

All we have is words, and for once, I have the prerogative to choose what they will be. Today, I write words which don’t have to mean anything in this world. In that, I think, we are allowed freedom. In that, I think, we might find something we like.

Somewhere else, the flowers in my grandmother’s balcony bloom, and she can’t contain herself. She limps into the room and reverentially places the three small flowers before the framed pictures of her blue god.

All we have is words, and with these whispers I sing my prayers.

 

Refracted

You told me to fuck off, so I came here.

 

Two weeks ago I flipped a coin. Today it came out heads.

Maybe this is the hard part.

 

My hair is falling. Pulling the strands and coiling them around my finger in the shower, I think that if I wash my hair long enough this afternoon I won’t have any left.

 

By the fifth seven minute, I’ve had enough. There’s only so many times I can go up against anyone and lose in a day.
Tonight I carve a six into my thigh and hope it won’t happen again on a paper handed to me.

You’re lonely in the hills, you say. That when people from the lowlands call, you cry and cry and can’t stop.

There’s an emptiness in the chat that means you expect me to say something.
You cry all the time, you type.

So I ask, “from the loneliness?”

 

I always knew studying in the best law school in the country would be hard, I always knew I would cut everyday. I had the luxury of knowing this, it is a privilege.

If lawyers could sit in the hills like scientists, I wouldn’t cry at night.
I cry for wanting to be lonely.

Today you said we can’t help each other anymore, that there is no point of us.
Today, I say there will be one tomorrow.

You tell me to fuck off.

Ritwik was bronzed in the afternoon light, before the tube lights blinked on and pulled a blue evening behind the windows.

If I had my pastels I would draw him, who I would never be.

They forgot me again.
I retreat into my cave in these hills and forget that I actually do exist. Here in these walls my body is yet another thing that I’ve invented for myself, that my conversations with those who’ll have one are just simulations inside my head.

You can never know, with the constant clanging.

I cannot be sure of any merit I have because I alone didn’t have to prove it to be here, I cannot think of anything else but the walls of the academic block screaming at me, that I don’t deserve this, that I shouldn’t breathe unless I earn it, that I should not speak until I am allowed by those better than me.

 

I do not know what I am doing here, what I am working towards, why I walk into this class of the country’s sixty smartest of my age and still want to try, even if I finally don’t. (Its that my father has already paid so much-)

I cannot speak.

After four rounds of lost debates, I forget how.

I muster the courage to ask a question, and suddenly I can think of nothing but fog. Words come in broken spurts.

I fear being one of those we hear about, those pitiful names who leave this place because it was simply too hard. I hate them, and I grow sick to think that I might be one of them.

My father says its only been a month, that I don’t have to do well – just pass. That they have my back and they’ll support me – but my mother’s eyes are more tired with each time she video calls, and I see bruises behind a pixilated screen.

“Don’t come back,” she says, “there’s nothing left here.”

 

(I want to leave, everything.)

 

I study and read and work, yet the class has answers that I do not, I don’t think what we need to. I cannot understand the words, I cannot recognise the sounds.

 

dontspeakyoudontdeservetobreathe

 

LnD took me this year, but they won’t next year.
I wonder if they’ve figured out I am excellent at pretending to be better than I am. They’re some of the very smartest here, among the smartest. Surely, they have.
Each time I’ve spoken in committee, I was proved wrong.

 

 

I like to think it’s not that I’m not trying.
Its just something I can’t convince myself of.

LnD sent two teams and both won the debate tournament. Grabbed best, speaker too.

I am scared that if I start to get real, I’ll find out that I am not.

 

(Annyeong, he said last October, and soon it will be October again.

All he has left is his voice to drown out mine and his long lidded eyes on sheets of drawing paper.)